Ok kimchi, we get it. You’re awesome. Except, you’re not! That’s right, kimchi, I don’t like you. But I have to give you mad props because you’ve been really getting around lately, kimchi. I see you pretty much everywhere I turn these days. There you are, creep bagging in fried rice dishes on my beloved Food 52 and trying to pass yourself off as a legitimatechicken noodle soup ingredient in the pages of my Real Simple magazine. Even our beautiful first lady, Michelle Obama, has a recipe for making you, which she shared with the world via Twitter. At this rate you’ll probably be the next Lay’s flavor (hey, Lays, give me a cool mil. I’m a kimchi marketing genius. #DoUsAFlavor). Kimchi, you’re America’s new Korean sweetheart. Move aside Psy , there’s a new Korean in town and it has crunchy, fermented cabagge-y kick. Yep, I said fermented cabbage. Which makes me take pause and pontificate-how can something that is comprised of fermented cabbage be so popular? Oh, kimchi, you are a wily one indeed. You’ve managed to pass yourself off as delicious, when in fact, you are not. You’ve evenfooled the Brits into taking a liking to you. But that probably wasn’t too difficult; all you really had to do was ride in on the coat tails of curry and dazzle the taste buds of a people accustomed to porridge, which is just a fancy term for mush, and fish and chips.
I’ve been to Korea and I ate you, kimchi. I tried you over and over at many different restaurants. I sampled your many different variations from so many little bowls of banchan, the traditional side dishes served with every Korean meal. I really tried to like you, I did, but I just never could develop a taste for your texture. Maybe I could handle your spicy, sour flavor alone, but I take a bite of you and I just can’t get past that slimy yet crunchy texture of fermented cabbage. I’ve given you about as honest an effort as I possibly can, but no, kimchi, I still don’t like you. Yet you follow me around, mocking me, showing up in my inner foodie circles, all “Here I am! Fucking try me in fried rice or chicken soup. Maybe this time you’ll like me.” Dammit, kimchi, I will not like you. Just leave me alone. Move on. Find someone else to terrorize. Kimchi, you are my arch-nemesis. I try to escape you, but it seems we are destined to be in one another’s life. I foolishly assumed that I had left you behind in Korea, a mere ripple from a fallen cherry blossom on the surface of the pond that is my foodie memories. But then Korean food started to gain popularity in the states, and there you were, back in my life again. You are the yin to my yang. The Darth Vader to my Luke Skywalker. I respect you, kimchi. But I do not like you.
You are ubiquitous in Korea. Everywhere one turns, there you are. On every table, served with every meal. Your odor permeates the subway. Kimchi pots even dot the roof tops and balconies of apartments in Seoul. Koreans fucking love you. And now apparently, thanks to the likes of Chefs David Chang and Roy Choi, so too do Americans. But not I, kimchi. Not I. I see through your fad food veneer. I’m calling it; you’re a fad food and nothing more. In a few years you will have faded into fad food obscurity, along with quinoa and cronuts. Be happy with your elevated side dish status here in America, because soon your reign will come to an end and you’ll crawl back, defeated, eaten up and spit back out (maybe literally), to your designated spot with the rest of the banchan in Korea.
Kimchi, I already know all about you. I saw the giant brown jars that you are fermented in everywhere in Korea. I know who you are, where you come from. I have eaten you in your home. I know your story, how you are made: combine cabbage, chili paste, garlic, and fish sauce and allow to ferment for up to several months (watch this ridiculous video from “Mind of a Chef” for more details). I have to hand it to you kimchi, I recently read that Unesco has declared your preparation an Intangible Cultural Heritage. I will graciously give you respect where respect is due, kimchi. But that doesn’t mean that I have to enjoy eating you. Still, your rise in the western world, I have to admit, is quite an impressive one given the simple fact that you are pungent, spicy, fermented cabbage. And you are, quite frankly, gross. I humbly bow to you kimchi, for you have won this battle, but remember, the war rages on.